The major tournaments in girls’ basketball for California teams begin this week with most of the top teams heading to the Nike TOC in Phoenix. From there some will come to the East Bay/Concord area for the 160-team West Coast Jamboree. For these updated rankings, six-time state champ Long Beach Poly is missing for the first time in what we think is 12 years. It’s also a boom for the CIF Central Section as both Clovis North and Central of Fresno have joined perennial power Clovis West in the State Top 20.
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UPDATED GIRLS BASKETBALL
(Through games of Saturday, December 16)
(Preseason ranking in parentheses)
1. (1) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 5-0
The preseason top-ranked Rams haven’t played any ranked teams other than a preseason No. 30 Sacred Heart Cathedral team that is top five in the Central Coast Section, and that was a 22-point win that only Fresno Central slightly bettered in an 18-point loss. St. Mary’s is the in the elite Joe Smith Division of the Nike TOC this week and staying on top here will mean they likely must make the finals there. The Rams then head to the Title XI Holiday Classic in Washington D.C. Some rankings have the Rams behind Archbishop Mitty but we started them on top and we’ll let it play out in Phoenix where they are both in the Joe Smith Division.
2. (2) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 5-0
The Monarchs got a test at preseason No. 24 Sacramento in a nine-point win but other than that they’ve rolled so far including an 80-29 win over preseason No. 23 Sacramento McClatchy in a game they led 29-2 at one point and 53-14 at the half. Mitty is on the other side of the Joe Smith bracket at the Nike TOC as St. Mary’s and that creates a possible showdown in the finals. After the TOC, head coach Sue Phillips and her girls are the top team in the elite Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree. Either they will come into the East Bay/Concord based tournament behind or ahead of St. Mary’s in the rankings based on what happens in Phoenix. We won’t have an update of these rankings again until after the holidays. Just too many games on literally every day of every week.
3. (4) Salesian (Richmond) 2-0
Going into the Nike TOC, the Pride have only played two games, so there really isn’t a lot to write about, except one of them was a 53-51 victory at Pinewood so those two teams will flip in these rankings, just as they did on our ticker last week. Salesian was placed lower in the pecking order than Windward in the John Anderson Division of the Nike TOC, but even in that division it’s easy to lose more than once. After the TOC, head coach Steve Pezzola and his girls are in the West Coast Jamboree as the No. 2 seed on the other side of the Platinum Division bracket from Mitty.
4. (3) Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 7-1
Since he took the helm, the forte of Pinewood has been shooting and against Salesian the girls were only 4 of 17 on 3-pointers and 17 of 58 overall from the field – and still only lost by a deuce at home. “Proud of our effort…great game!! But we’re better,” texted Scheppler after the loss. The Panthers then went up to Santa Rosa last Saturday and their shooting woes continued but they escaped with a 53-52 victory over Cardinal Newman on a last second 10-foot floater by Brianna Claros, but according to Scheppler she was 2 of 15 before that shot. Pinewood is now off until a Dec. 28 matchup with San Francisco Lowell at the Mountain View St. Francis Holiday Tournament.
5. (8) Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) 4-1
The Wolverines move up three spots from their preseason ranking and are now the top team from Southern California. After opening the season with a 68-67 overtime loss at Windward, head coach Melissa Hearlihy and her girls have won four straight, including avenging the loss to Windward with a 67-55 victory in the championship game of the Redondo Battle at the Beach Tournament. Hearlihy had the Wolverines in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions but it was cancelled due to the SoCal fires so she is putting her own event together to start on Wednesday with Bishop Montgomery, Clovis North, Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga, Oaks Christian, Valencia and Ventura.
6. (6) Windward (Los Angeles) 6-1
The Wildcats were poised to possibly move past a couple of the Northern California teams after beating Harvard-Westlake, Long Beach Poly and preseason SoCal No. 1 Etiwanda, but after losing in the rematch with Harvard-Westlake they hold tight and fall in behind the Wolverines. Head coach Vanessa Nygaard and team are off to Phoenix where they are in the Joe Smith Division of the Nike TOC and if they win their opening round game against Centennial of Las Vegas they potentially will face Tennessee’s national No. 1 Riverdale in the quarterfinals.
7. (9) La Jolla Country Day (San Diego) 4-1
After a lone loss to Pinewood but with a win over Alemany, head coach Terri Bamford and her girls move up two spots and hold tight as the No. 3 team from Southern California. The Torreys are in the John Anderson Division of the Nike TOC along with Salesian, Mater Dei, Bishop O’Dowd and West Campus, and if they win their opening round game they could be facing newcomer to the rankings Fresno Central.
8. (10) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 4-0
Head coach Kevin Kiernan and his Monarchs haven’t ventured outside Orange County yet with a 45-31 victory over Fullerton Troy as a top win. But that changes this week when they venture to Phoenix where they are in the John Anderson Division of the Nike TOC. They open against St. Francis from New York and with a win could conceivably face Bishop O’Dowd. In the meantime, it’s a two spot bump to stay behind La Jolla Country Day as Southern California’s No. 4 team.
9. (19) Clovis West (Fresno) 7-1
We have to admit we started Clovis West a little low because they lost so many players to graduation it was difficult to gauge how good they would be. So far however, the defending CIF Open Division champion Golden Eagles have a lone loss to a 9-0 Wisconsin No. 1 King that won the Clovis West hosted Central Valley Showdown. They have a win over Cardinal Newman and Sacred Heart Cathedral as well. Head Coach Craig Campbell and his girls, led by his 5-foot-11 guard and daughter Madison Campbell, are in the Mike Desper Division of the Nike TOC.
10. (NR) Clovis North (Fresno) 10-1
Folks may be saying where did this team come from to make the top 10 and fall in behind their cross-town Tri-River Athletic Conference arch rivals, and where are they going? The Broncos were scheduled to play in the Santa Barbara TOC and with that event cancelled Melissa Hearlihy of Harvard-Westlake, who really likes the team, invited them to her last minute event. Their lone loss is to Wisconsin King and they have a win over Sierra Canyon, albeit when that team was missing its best player. We’re going to give them credit for the win and see how they do in North Hollywood this week.
11. (13) Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 6-2
The Trailblazers have losses by one-point to Clovis North and by 14 to Oak Ridge at the Central Valley Showdown at Clovis West but they beat a solid Fresno Central team and they did it without second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Amanda Olinger. The 6-foot-2 sophomore and D1 recruit missed the Fresno event to play at the CIF state volleyball championships (Sierra Canyon won the D2 title). Look for this team to improve when Vanessa de Jesus, who is coming over from Los Angeles Marlborough, and Alexis Mark, who transferred from Sun Valley Village Christian, become eligible in January. Not having those doesn’t count but not having Olinger does in the way we rank many teams.
12. (17) Serra (Gardena) 6-2
In the preseason rankings it was stated that the Cavaliers were starting much higher than their No. 27 finish in last season’s final rankings, and now after a solid start, they’re threatening to crack the top 10 over the next two weeks. Their losses are to Harvard-Westlake by 12 points and Sierra Canyon by five, but they have on overtime win over Etiwanda and helped knock out Rosary Academy from the rankings with a victory. Head coach Mckinsey Hadley and his girls are off until the SoCal Holiday Classic next week where they face Rosary again and then La Jolla Country Day and Troy of Fullerton.
13. (5) Etiwanda 6-2
There are those that have already suggested we started the Eagles out too high, and maybe so, but they earned some respect among their fellow coaches in the preseason and it’s not like they’ve played stiffs. Their losses are by 10 points to Windward and 78-74 to Serra in overtime, both at the Redondo Tournament, and that was after they beat a Chaminade team that has a win over a Torrance West team that has a win over Long Beach Poly. They also have a win over a solid Garden Grove Orangewood Academy. Head coach Stan Delus and his girls are off this week before heading to Las Vegas Centennial for its Holiday Classic.
14. (20) Ribet Academy (Los Angeles) 13-1
Before this season is over, we have a sneaking hunch that a lot of people are going to know about this new kid on the block and their 6-foot-9 senior phenom Andrea Aquino. Head coach Nelson Wong has scheduled tough and the girls have responded with the most wins of anyone in the rankings. Some of the teams they’ve played aren’t very good and they were beaten soundly by Sierra Canyon, but they beat Alemany to legitimize themselves and earn a six spot bump. It will be interesting to see how they do this week at the Nike TOC in the Derril Kipp Division.
15. (18) Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills) 7-2
The Warriors fall in behind the Ribet Academy team that beat them by seven points. The only other loss for first-year head coach Johnny Garcia and his girls is 56-50 to host La Jolla Country Day at the Sweet 16 tournament. They have a solid win over Colorado No. 6 Regis Jesuit and they beat defending San Diego Section Open champion San Marcos Mission Hills at the Sweet 16 event as well. Alemany is off this week and heads to Washington D.C. next week for the Title IX Classic.
16. (12) Folsom 8-1
The Bulldogs have a two-point stinker loss to Pleasant Valley of Chico but they destroyed preseason No. 27 West Campus of Sacramento in a 62-26 victory. Folsom is not going to the Nike TOC and has a game this week with preseason No. 23 McClatchy of Sacramento before playing in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree. When a team has one big star like Cal-bound McKenzie Forbes and other role players they will take a loss so we’re not dropping Folsom that far for having one.
17. (28) West Campus (Sacramento) 6-1
It’s at this stage of the rankings where the who beat who starts to make things sketchy. Head coach John Langston and his girls took some lumps after getting blown out by Folsom but they have a win over a McClatchy team that has a win over preseason No. 16 Campolindo. The Warriors are in the Anderson Division of the Nike TOC along with Salesian and La Jolla Country Day. From there, they move on to the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
18. (21) Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 5-2
The Cardinals, who have no gym and have to play some of their home games at Santa Rosa Junior College and played Pinewood at crosstown Elsie Allen, move up three spots and had a last second shot by Pinewood missed Newman could be sitting right behind the Clovis West team that handed them their other defeat in this week’s rankings. Their five wins are solid with the best a 22-point win over defending CIF D5 state champion and preseason No. 30 Eastside College Prep of East Palo Alto. Newman will be in the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
19. (NR) Central (Fresno) 6-3
We made an error not having the Grizzlies in the preseason Top 35 but after a very solid start they are rewarded with the next to last slot for this week. Their losses are to No. 1 St. Mary’s and Wisconsin King and a close 43-40 defeat versus Sierra Canyon. Central is led by 6-4 junior wing Ramani Parker, who along with Haley Jones of Mitty made the final 16 at the USA Team trials.
20. (34) St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 4-0
The final spot came down to the young Pilots, a Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) team that has losses to Harvard-Westlake and Windward but a win over a Chaminade team has a win over Long Beach Poly, an unbeaten Brea-Olinda group that hasn’t played a top 20 team but has a win over preseason No. 24 Fairmont Prep, and a 4-0 Ventura knocking on the door to get into the next rankings. As for St. Joseph Notre Dame, its claim to fame is knocking out preseason No. 7 Carondelet from the rankings with a 55-54 victory at the Mats Tip-Off Classic at Orinda Miramonte. It will be hard to move up the Pilots much higher due to a light schedule coming up, but they also beat a solid Oregon City team at the Mats Classic.
Dropped Out from Preseason Top 20:
Previous No. 7 Carondelet (Concord), No. 11 Long Beach Poly, No. 14 Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland), No. 15 Rosary Academy (Fullerton), No. 16 Campolindo (Moraga)
Teams On the Bubble
Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 3-2
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 1-3
Brea-Olinda (Brea) 5-0
Carondelet (Concord) 3-1
Campolindo (Moraga) 3-1
Chaminade (West Hills) 2-2
Eastside College Prep (East Palo Alto) 4-2
Enterprise (Redding) 8-0
Heritage (Brentwood) 5-0
Long Beach Poly 2-2
McClatchy (Sacramento) 6-2
Menlo School (Atherton) 5-0
Miramonte (Orinda) 4-2
Mt. Miguel (Spring Valley) 10-0
Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 3-3
Presentation (San Jose) 6-0
Rosary Academy (Fullerton) 2-4
Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 0-3
St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 6-2
Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 8-2
Westchester (Los Angeles) 8-0
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend